DMOS continues his quest for the ideal in-car electronic companion for his iPaq, so that he and his passengers can listen to digital music wherever they travel. The Belkin FM TuneCast II transmits the music from digital music player through a car's FM radio. Does it measure up?
I'm sure many of you are familiar with the tape adapters from back in the day which allowed those with the first portable compact disc players to make use of the new format in an older vehicle. It was much cheaper to get the "car kit" with your Sony Walkman, and plug that into the existing tape deck. These days however, it's rare to find a late model vehicle which has a tape player, and as of yet there isn't a way to adapt new audio formats to a CD input.
Right now the CD isn't going to be replaced as the main medium for retail sales, but flash or hard drive based players are constantly becoming ever more popular. Another format for portable audio is the MP3 CD player. All of the above offer something the venerable compact disc does not, and that's longer play without user input.
Sure you can have CD changers that hold a dozen discs, and some higher end autos integrate these in-dash. Unfortunately they come with size, complexity and cost tradeoffs which are trumped by the newer options. The question is how to integrate these new devices into an older vehicle without excessive cost, now that a tape adapter isn't an option for many folk? Well, what's the other audio input format that every vehicle since the 70s has had? Yep, the trusty FM radio. While not the audiophile format of choice, it is easy to access, and even better, requires no wires going into the car, easing placement within the vehicle's interior.
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